1. What are the major reasons we use report cards and assign grades to students’ work?
2. Ideally, what purposes should report cards or grades serve?
3. What elements should teachers use in determine students’ grades? (for example, major assessments, compositions, homework, attendance, class participation, etc.)
These 3 questions were posed by Dr. Thomas Guskey this morning at a presentation in a near-by school district. (Thank you for allowing us to attend!) When I consider my answers now, today, they are much different than 2 years ago. I sat eaves-dropping the teachers behind me, who sounded much like the old teacher in Room 148.
Here’s what I find quite intriguing about Dr. Guskey – he shares his ideas and research, not in a condescending manner, he is not pointing the finger and telling me I am wrong in my practices. He simply poses each idea – allowing the audience to ponder, reflect on their classrooms and then, he shares his new view. You see, he’s been in the classroom and had to make the same choices I’ve made…some were good, others, through learning he’s realized needed to be changed. He helps you realize where you can make improvements in order to help your students.
Averaging…I am a math teacher – therefore, I average. But his example of a martial arts student…wow…I cannot argue with it. A beginning student has a white belt and works up through the degrees, eventually obtaining a black belt. However, with my averaging, this student would have to settle with a gray belt.
It reminds of a former student, I’ll call them Bob. Bob had poor attendance, rarely did homework, simply uninterested. As the first quarter ended, Bob’s grades had improved to a whopping 40%. He continued doing minimal, but finally realized this was not getting him where he needed to go. Bob’s attendance improved, was still hit-n-miss with HW, but through classroom participation and effort on his midterm, he pulled it to a D…again, due to averaging.
Spring semester, I was excited to see the turn-around Bob had made. He was actively engaged in class (still minimal effort on HW), earning almost an A at the end of the second semester. However, with our school policy, his high B and D averaged to a C – which kept him “out” of the honors class his sophomore year. Bob suffered through, bored, not being challenged. Even his teacher shared how bored he seemed in class. However, I am proud to say Bob worked his way to the College-Prep classes the last two years of high school, graduated and will be attending college this fall. Had I known then, what I know now, I would have broken the rules (:o gasp!) and made sure Bob had “the grade” needed for placement in a more challenging environment.
Progress – taking a student from point A to somewhere beyond point A. The destination may be a little different for each student, but that’s our goal – to allow them the opportunity to grow. In order to show growth – we must pre-assess, using some type of diagnostic and communicate with them, allowing them to see areas for growth.
The process may look differently for each student as well.
In the end, the Product – based solely on achievement – what the student knows and can do is the ultimate grade, in my opinion. I understand how important student behaviors are – how they often directly correlate to the student’s achievement. However, we shouldn’t punish a student for not following our “prescribed process.” We cannot tie their behaviors to the academic achievement.
Grading will forever be debateable among educators. In my next post, I will share what I did last year, what I learned and what I will be doing this school year. It may not be the answer for everyone, but in the words of Dr. Guskey, “it works for me.”